In a world of omni-channel experiences and fluid customer expectations, sales organisations are increasingly embracing digital, with Forbes Global 2000 companies spending $2.4 trillion on digital sales channels and services in 2015. Yet, despite heavy digital investment, revenue target achievement is falling short, confidence in achieving revenue targets is low, and the ability to retain and attract top sales talent is slipping, according to a recent survey by Accenture. Overall, the return on investment from these sales tools is not living up to expectations.
The disconnect between the Chief Sales Officers (CSOs) who design and implement the tools and the sales representatives who use them lies at the root of the problem. According to Accenture’s survey, while sales representatives cite improving customer satisfaction as their top priority, CSOs see capturing new accounts as the number one objective. This disconnect between the objectives of the two roles leads to the disparity between the tools being provided by leadership and the tools sales representatives actually need in order to feel empowered and achieve success.
All too often, sales tools are designed from the top down from the perspective of the enterprise. And while the features and functionality of sales tools continue to advance in sophistication, only 13 per cent of sales representatives are utilising them to their full capabilities. Additionally, while 75 per cent of sales representatives acknowledge that the sales tools provided are an important part of the sales process, more than half consider them to be more of an obstacle than a facilitator to their sales performance. Furthermore, the majority of sales representatives believe there are an overabundance of sales tools, and that more often than not, the tools are not customised to their needs and are being used more to monitor their performance than to enhance it.
In order to maximise the potential of sales tools, leaders in sales organisations need to arm their sales force teams with advanced user friendly tools that allow sales representatives to both engage with their customers and harness customer relationships. Moreover, organisations need to consider a people-first approach. By listening to the sales force and marrying their needs with tools that deliver data-driven, flexible and customised experiences, organisations will further drive their bottom lines.
Take Spanish company Damm Group for instance. The implementation of a mobile application has allowed the Spanish beverage company to enable its sales force to make data-driven decisions when negotiating commercial agreements and more effectively target promotional activity. With this new application, sales representatives and distributors are being given access to a common tool, which allows them to manage customer data and sales information on the move. Furthermore, the solution makes real-time data available to sales representatives, and includes point of sale images and geo-location data for site visits, as well as customer data.
In order to maximise the potential of the sales force, organisations need to put sales representatives first and focus on the following three key principals:
1. Follow human-centred design
Rather than taking a traditional management focused or technology centred approach to development, tools should be designed to be tailored to the services provided by the salesperson and their customer engagement needs.
2. Identify critical data to measurably improve the guided selling experience
For most organisations, while increasing volumes of data are being made available across a multitude of sources, sales representatives have just a few seconds to call upon that information when engaging with a customer. To combat this, organisations need to adopt a method to allow sales representatives to be able to identify and access the most useful data. Analytics have become critical to the enabling of these guided selling conversations, by powering the right package of information and insights at the right stage of the conversation to deliver maximum impact and influence.
3. Leverage highly flexible platform technology
Supporting personalised guided selling requires organisations to migrate towards digital platforms that can be adapted to different devices, deployed quickly, and are able to accommodate individual profiles. Agile and scalable platforms give sales representatives the opportunity to personalise their own tools, engage with customers and influence conversations. The configurations of the platforms also take into consideration the ease of integration with back-end systems.
By following these three principles, organisations are able to amplify the talent of the sales team, create engaged customer conversations and boost overall performance.
Michael Buckley is the Accenture Interactive lead for Australia and New Zealand.